By Zaya Williams
The United Progressive Party (UPP), has taken a clear stance against bribery during elections, expressing their vehement disapproval of the practice.
Recent allegations of voters being induced to support the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) in the October 24 by-election have rekindled the UPP’s call for comprehensive political reform and the introduction of legislation to combat this issue.
Former UPP Leader Harold Lovell emphasized that bribery has regrettably become commonplace during election periods, despite its illegality. He underscored the need for a shift in the political culture, as a significant portion of these actions is not solely driven by those with resources but also by those who demand such inducements.
Lovell explained, “What we need is to change the political culture because a lot of what takes place is not just supply-driven, as in the person who has the resources, but some of it is demand-driven, and that’s what we have to watch, that people have come to expect certain things at election time.”
Having been on the ground during the by-election in St. Mary’s South, Lovell remarked that many individuals exhibited a strong commitment to moral values, affirming that they were not for sale.
However, he acknowledged that this may not always be the case in urban areas. In response to this challenge, he also lent his voice to the call for laws that protect individuals who may have been offered bribes.
Lovell proposed, ” “We need to look at the laws again. We need to provide for immunity for persons who take inducements with the intention of voting so that in the event that evidence is needed persons will not be shy in coming forward.”
He further clarified that even if a person accepts money and does not vote for the individual providing the money, it “breaks the bribery chain.”
The country’s Representation of the People Act states that “A person is guilty of bribery if he, directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person on his behalf (a) gives any money or procures any office to or for any voter or to or for any other person on behalf of any voter or to or for any other person in order to induce any voter to vote or refrain from voting; (b) corruptly does any such act as aforesaid on account of any voter having voted or refrained from voting”
On the other hand, “A voter shall be guilty of bribery if before or during an election he directly or indirectly by himself or by any other person on his behalf receives, agrees to or contracts for any money, gift, loan or valuable consideration, office, place or employment for himself or for any other person for voting or agreeing to vote or for refraining or agreeing to refrain from voting”.
It also states “A person shall be guilty of bribery if after an election he directly or indirectly by himself or by any other person on his behalf receives any money or valuable consideration on account of any person having voted or refrained from voting or having induced any other to vote or refrain from voting”.
Although the Act outlines the consequences for both those who offer and those who accept inducements, the UPP is advocating for stricter measures to ensure a more transparent and fair electoral process.